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Understanding Trustees: What Do They Do?

living trusts and estate planning

If you or a loved one have been designated as the Trustee of a Trust, it is crucial that you understand its roles and responsibilities. This month, we looked at the duties that come with being a Trustee, and what the Siegel Law Group, P.A. can do for you.

What is a Living Trust?

A Trust is a legal arrangement through which an individual, referred to as a Trustee, holds legal title to effectively manage their own assets or another person’s assets. Generally, the Grantor will name themselves as the initial Trustee and assign another person or entity to serve as the Successor Trustee.

The most common type of Trust is a Living Trust, created to avoid Guardianship and Probate proceedings in the event of the Grantor’s incapacity or passing, respectively. The Successor Trustee will then take responsibility for the Trust assets until they are finally distributed to the beneficiaries listed in the Trust agreement.

Many people choose a Revocable Living Trust instead of a Will in their Estate Plan due to its flexibility. As long as you are alive and competent, you can change the Trust agreement, add or remove assets, or even cancel it at your leisure.

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Trustee

As a Trustee, you are expected to take responsibility for the assets set aside in a Trust for someone else. This means that you won’t be able to reap the benefits from the Trust unless the agreement allows for it.

Florida law grants Trustees a wide range of responsibilities to effectively manage the Trust. Duties include, but are not limited to:

  • The Trustee must follow the instructions in the Revocable Living Trust agreement.
  • The Trustee cannot combine Trust assets with their own. You must keep separate checking accounts and investments and be able to account for them.
  • You cannot use Trust assets for personal use unless the agreement states otherwise.
  • Beneficiaries must be treated equally unless otherwise specified by the Trust.
  • Trust assets must be invested in a responsible manner that will result in reasonable growth with minimum risk.
  • The Trustee is held responsible for managing accurate Trust accounting records, filing tax returns and reporting to the beneficiaries as required by the Trust.

trusteesRoles and Responsibilities

A Trustee assumes legal responsibility to administer the Trust in compliance with the agreement and Florida law. They are responsible for managing the Trust in the best interest of the beneficiaries. If you have been appointed Trustee, duties may vary based on what assets the Trust owns.

In order to effectively manage the Trust, the Trustee must make efforts to control all assets described in the Trust. If requested by a beneficiary, the Trustee will create a list of the Trust’s assets and liabilities. The Trustee must distribute the property in the Trust, or any additional assets to beneficiaries as described in the agreement.

At Incapacity

  • Oversees care of the ill person, including care of any minors and dependents.
  • Understands insurance benefits and limitations.
  • Applies for disability benefits.
  • Develops a team of advisors.
  • Notifies the bank and others.
  • Transacts necessary business and maintains accurate records.

At Death

  • Contacts attorneys to review Trust and process.
  • Keeps beneficiaries informed and distribute assets to those specified in the Trust.
  • Develops a team of advisors.
  • Inventories assets and determines current values.
  • Pays bills and performs final accounting tasks.
  • Makes partial distributions if necessary.
  • Collects benefits, manages records and files tax returns.

Consult Estate Planning Attorney Barry D. Siegel Today

In short, serving as a Trustee gives you the opportunity to provide a great service to the Trust’s beneficiaries. If you are considering executing a Will or establishing a Trust to protect the financial future of your loved ones, Attorney Barry D. Siegel can help.

The Siegel Law Group, P.A. offers assistance for Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning to help you get a head start on securing your future. For more details on the duties of a Trustee, contact The Siegel Law Group, P.A. today and learn what our Estate Planning services can do for you.

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